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Malawi's president vows to repeal gay ban

BY RAPHAEL TENTHANI AND DONNA BRYSON
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BLANTYRE, Malawi -- President Joyce Banda declared Friday she wants to repeal Malawi's laws against homosexual acts, going against a trend in Africa in which gays are being increasingly singled out for prosecution.

Banda, who assumed the presidency in April when her predecessor died, made the announcement in her first state of the nation address.

"Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed," she said. But repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote, and it is unclear how much political support Banda would have for sweeping changes in this impoverished and conservative nation in southern Africa.

Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and 14-year prison sentences given in 2010 to two men who were arrested after celebrating their engagement and were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency.

Then President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned the couple on "humanitarian grounds only" while insisting they had "committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws."

Mutharika died in office in April. Banda, who was vice president, stepped in to serve out his term which ends in 2014.

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Great! I wish her luck in getting the Parliament to repeal these discriminatory, insulting laws. Other African countries should follow her example. The homophobia on that continent is very unfortunate.

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